What are Chaps?

What are Chaps?

What are chaps?

Chaps, pronounced like “shaps’’, are sturdy coverings for the legs that are typically worn by people who ride horses. They are made of leather or a leather-like material and consist of leggings and a belt. Chaps are not joined at the crotch and have no seat, which allows the rider to move their legs freely while riding.

The Origin Of Chaps

Chaps originated in Spain, where they were called chaparajos. Chaparajos were originally made of deerskin and were used to protect the legs of riders from the thorns of the chaparral, a type of shrubland. When Spanish explorers brought horses to the Americas, they brought chaparajos with them. Chaps quickly became popular with Native Americans and European settlers, who used them for protection from thorns, brush, and insects.

Today, chaps are still worn by people who ride horses, especially in Western riding. They are also worn by some people as fashion accessories. Chaps can be made from a variety of materials, including leather, suede, denim, and canvas. They can be decorated with fringe, stitching, and other embellishments.

Types of Chaps

There are two main types of chaps: chinks and shotgun chaps.


Chinks are shorter chaps that typically cover the thighs and end just below the knee. They provide good protection for the upper legs while allowing more freedom of movement. Chinks are commonly worn by rodeo performers and cowboys.

Shotgun Chaps

Shotgun chaps, on the other hand, cover the entire leg from waist to ankle. They offer more comprehensive protection and are often seen in activities like working on a ranch where there might be thorny bushes, rough terrain, or even the risk of snake bites.

Why Use Chaps?

The primary purpose of chaps is protection. Here’s why they are so important

  • Protection from Elements: Whether it’s the harsh sun, wind, rain, or even the cold, chaps provide a barrier between the legs and the elements. This is particularly crucial for cowboys and ranchers who spend long hours outdoors.
  • Defence against Hazards: Chaps safeguard the legs from potential hazards such as branches, thorns, rocks, and other sharp objects that could cause cuts or bruises while riding through dense vegetation or rough terrain.
  • Horseback Riding: For equestrians, chaps are essential. They provide grip against the saddle, protect against chafing, and offer an extra layer of security in case of a fall.
  • Ranch Work: Working on a ranch involves dealing with animals, machinery, and various materials. Chaps shield the legs from accidental splashes, kicks from livestock, and other workplace hazards.

Chaps are an important piece of safety gear for horseback riders. They can help to prevent cuts, scrapes, and insect bites. Chaps can also help to keep the rider’s legs warm in cold weather.

How do I choose the right chaps?

  1. If you are thinking about buying chaps, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
  2. you need to decide what type of chaps you want. Rowel chaps are a good choice for people who ride with spurs. Shotgun chaps are a good choice for people who ride in brushy or insect-infested areas.
  3. you need to decide what size chaps you need. Chaps should fit snugly but not too tightly. You should be able to move your legs freely without the chaps restricting your movement.
  4. you need to decide what material you want your chaps to be made of. Leather is the most traditional material for chaps. However, there are also chaps made from suede, denim, and canvas. The material you choose will depend on your personal preferences and budget.
  5. you need to decide how much you are willing to spend on chaps. Chaps can range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. The price will depend on the quality of the materials, the craftsmanship, and the brand name.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What’s the difference between chinks and shotgun chaps?

A: Chinks are shorter chaps that cover the thighs and end just below the knee, providing flexibility and protection for rodeo performers and cowboys. Shotgun chaps, on the other hand, cover the entire leg from waist to ankle, offering comprehensive protection against thorns, rough terrain, and workplace hazards.

Q: Do chaps have any practical benefits?

A: Yes,Chaps offer several benefits, including protection from elements like sun, wind, rain, and cold. They also defend against potential hazards like branches, thorns, and sharp objects, making them crucial for outdoor activities and ranch work.

Q: Are chaps only used for horseback riding?

A: While chaps are commonly associated with horseback riding due to their grip-enhancing properties and protection against saddle chafing, they’re also used in various outdoor activities like ranch work, motorcycling, and even as a fashion statement.

Q: How do chaps protect against hazards?

A: Chaps act as a shield against hazards by providing a physical barrier between the legs and potential dangers. They prevent cuts, bruises, and abrasions from sharp objects, branches, and even accidental splashes from liquids.

Q: Can chaps be fashionable?

A: Yes, chaps have evolved beyond their functional origins and have become a fashion statement. Different designs, colors, and embellishments reflect personal style, and they have been embraced by musicians, actors, and performers, contributing to their enduring appeal.

Q: Can chaps be used for activities other than outdoor work?

A: Certainly. Chaps are versatile and can be used for a range of activities beyond outdoor work and horseback riding. They are often seen in motorcycling, as they provide protection against wind and road debris.

Q: How do I choose the right chaps?

A: When choosing chaps, consider the activity you’ll be engaged in. For activities involving more mobility, like rodeo events, chinks might be preferable. For comprehensive protection, such as ranch work, shotgun chaps are a better choice. Additionally, select chaps that fit comfortably and securely.

Q: Are chaps still relevant today?

A: Yes. While the nature of outdoor work and activities has evolved, the need for protection and comfort remains. Chaps continue to be relevant for those who engage in such activities, and their historical significance and fashion appeal add to their continued popularity.


Chaps, with their unique blend of practicality and style, have transcended their humble beginnings as functional protective gear. From the days of wrangling cattle in the Wild West to the modern equestrian arena, chaps remain an iconic symbol of grit, adventure, and a connection to the past.